Have You Ever Felt Like you Are Drowning?

Image used from Facebook page: People Who Believe in God. April 5, 2014.

Sometimes the demands on us are more than we can bear. Several times I have been faced with what looked and felt like insurmountable obstacles. My son, Alex, began to crawl when he was six months old. He became quite proficient at getting around over the next two weeks. We wanted to foster his curiosity so we rarely had him in a play pen.

One day, with four adults in the house, each assuming someone someone else had an eye on him, he crawled in to a bucket half filled with dirty mop water. He was so small, that his weight could not tip the bucket over to free him. By the time he was found, he was blue. The color of stone washed jeans. Lifeless as a limp rag with no breath in him.

His father began by dumping water out of his lungs. First one cup, then another. He began mouth to mouth and our house guest did CPR. After dumping yet more water out of him and receiving a good slap, he began to cry. But he was still far from safe.

We lived in the West African country of Senegal at the time. Alex’s place of birth. 911 did not exist. I was desperate to do something. I called the closest equivalent, to no avail. I called the American mission school to ask for prayer. It was the end of the school day with parents collecting their children. They called people together and held an emergency prayer meeting for Alex. A little bit of peace and a little bit of wisdom began to prevail.

We climbed in our car to battle afternoon traffic in order to get him to the pediatrician’s house.

As soon as the Doctor saw him he new he was semi-comatose and we needed to get him to the clinic. The private clinic was much safer than the hospital.

After 16 hours of being semi-comatose, Alex woke up, and was soon pulling himself up to standing in the crib! When the doctor came in that morning, he was amazed to see Alex’s recovery. But it did not last. He soon began to spike a fever, in spite of the antibiotics he was on to prevent infection from dirty water.

At this point, we began to elicit prayer from the international network of out sending agency. I have documented prayer for Alex at that time was coming from five continents. His fever continued to spike to 105F over the next few days. With his life in the balance, it became apparent that he needed to be evacuated to France for the best care.

In France, they ran an optical wire into his lung and found a small piece of our kitchen sponge lodged in his right lung! Fortunately the optical wire also had a suction and they were able to extract the foreign matter that was causing the infection. Everything the wire touched on the way in, bled. They were expecting massive scaring in his lung. A follow up three weeks later proved that God has healed his lung completely. There was no scaring at all! More than a couple doctors I have shared that story with have had goose bumps as they recognized the hand of God at work.

Today Alex is an army officer. He is healthy. As a friend of ours said when they met Alex several months after the accident; “There’s no fuzz on his brain!” He is smart. He suffered no brain damage from the drowning.

Alex does not remember any of this, aside from my telling of it. The image above, however, does a decent job of showing how I felt at times over those weeks. Questions of God’s goodness  and care came at me repeatedly, but each time God reached down to me and buoyed me up, just as He saved and cured Alex. I learned a lot about God and his followers through those weeks. Most all of the lessons were good. I hope to share some of them elsewhere another day.

For today, perhaps the deepest lesson I learned at that time was the intimate presence of the Creator in the midst of pain and confusion. This story has a very happy ending! There have been other stories in my life that have taken tragic bents. I specifically did not use the word ending, because even in tragedy, Abba can work miracles, of a different sort, into my life, and yours.

Sometimes we see the good quickly. Other times we need to step back and let time and love, from friends and from God, help us gain His perspective. It is a sort of “re-framing.” Like being too close to see what it is really all about. The re-framing often allows to learn things about ourselves and about God that we might not grasp in the midst of the events.

Where are you right now? A good, easy place in life? Or a difficult or even tragic place? You may not even be able to see God in it right now, but seek God. Cry out! Let Him and His children hold you up until you can see how God is present.

Alex about a year later. He managed to find the SAME bucket to play in. He was big enough this time to tip it if he needed to get out. I was cool enough to find my camera to mark the event.

Alex about a year later. He managed to find the SAME bucket to play in. He was big enough this time to tip it if he needed to get out. I was cool enough to find my camera to mark the event.

 

What Is That Pain?

Rocky Shore of the Atlantic. Magnolia, MA.

Rocky Shore of the Atlantic. Magnolia, MA.

I am sitting still with my Bible open in front of me, and I begin to notice… that pain. Pain? Well, It’s a place in my heart that is hungry and is not easily satisfied. It hurts but not like a broken toe. It wants to be recognized and yet it doesn’t want to be recognized. It screams, silently. If left to my own devices, I just keep running and keep doing and keep finding ways to not have to think about it. And I don’t think it’s a pain that is unique to me.

I think that’s why we have “quiet times,” these times when we followers of Jesus pull apart to read the scriptures and meditate on them. To look at our lives from God’s perspective, to pray and to ask him for wisdom. It’s that time alone with Papa that I have a choice to run into him or the run away from him. Psalm 18:10 says the name of the Lord is a strong tower the righteous run into him and are safe. I know I have spent a lot of my life trying to protect myself and when I discovered that I didn’t have to, that I could let God protect me, it still took a long time to really trust that truth, even imperfectly.

Contemplating the Creator and the creation. Photo by Karen Zanellis

Contemplating the Creator and the creation. Photo by Karen Zanellis

This time alone, preferably in the morning, is where I get to focus on what’s really important and Abba is really important. My relationship with Him and my relationships with other people are what make life.  This set aside time is where the re-alignment of my brain and my heart takes place. Here I sort out the concerns of my life and I put them all on the altar before the God who created me, who loves me, who knows why He created me. I was created in love and for love. Because of that, my heavenly father is motivated to help me become all that he created me to be.

When I yield all of me and all of my concerns to him, it’s amazing how that place in me that feels empty and sore begins to fill. Not with more pain, but it fills with a tender warmth and a satisfaction and approval that only comes from our Creator. There, in His strong tower, I find the peace, the rest, the satisfaction and the confidence that I need to fulfill my purpose for this hour for this day, and by God’s grace, over time, for my entire life and full destiny.

How do you fill that place of longing in your life?

Abba, Thank You for making me unique. Thank You that You are fully aware of all my longings, even more clearly than I am. Thank You that you are able to help me quiet my mind and heart so that I can have a conversation with You about what, and who, is really important in my life.

Thank You for your Holy Spirit who reminds me of Your faithfulness in my life. Thank you that Your word is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of my heart. Thank You that even when I find the truth uncomfortable, You are not uncomfortable, and You deal with me with love and grace.

Thank You that I can trust You to fill my longings with good things, because You are THE good God! Thank You that I no longer need to strive, but I can allow Your peace that passes all understanding to guard my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus. I choose to trust You, because You know every one of my days, even before there was one of them. Thank You that even when I do not understand, I can trust Your plans for me are not to harm me, but to give me a future and a hope.

Abba, You know my secret longings____[fill in the blank]___. I ask You to revel my next step(s) to me. Thank You that You want me to have all the desires that You placed in my heart. Show me my part and show me Your part. Grant me patience, perseverance and courage to keep my eyes firmly focused on You, the author and perfecter of my faith. Show me how to glance at the circumstances, good or bad, and continually hand them to You.

Thank You for allowing me to cast all my cares on You, because You care for me… more than I can ever grasp here in this lifetime.

 

 

Focus

What is the focus?

Ever have a day like this? What is your focus?

I have been having a bit of a tough time focusing. Some who know me are laughing right now. “A bit” of trouble?!?! They say.

Some people are easily distracted. It is rare to find someone who can shut every thing out except what is in front of them and truly focus, especially with all the distractions these days.

I’ve been trying to write a major project at home. Emphasis on trying. There are so many things proverbially shouting at me, that I can barley think over the din of distractions.

As is my habit, I read the bible nearly every day. Some days I read several chapters. Other days I quickly spot a phrase, word or circumstance being described and it “jumps” of the page at me.  I connect with it. Today was one of those jump off the page days.

It was Ezra 7:10 that grabbed me. It reads: “For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.”

He set his heart to study the law of the Lord…. Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Ezra set his focus, his heart, on the word of God. It was his treasure. As a scribe and a priest, possibly even The High Priest, studying the word was an excellent choice of focus.

What do I focus on? Set my heart to?

He set his heart to study the law of God and do it…. Now that is evidence of learning something. Extended focus becomes experience, not just head knowledge. If you want to know what I am focused on, follow me for a few days and see what I actually do! On second thought PLEASE DON’T follow me. Or maybe do, and I’ll be scared into doing what I know is best, rather than being as distracted as I too often allow myself to be.

He set his heart to study the law of God and do it and too teach

Do you really want to learn something? Teach it to another. Teaching may not require mastery in the beginning, but over time, repeatedly practicing, experience can turn into mastery.

Ezra did master the word of God, in head and heart knowledge and in practice. When the exiled Jews returned to rebuild Jerusalem, Ezra was their spiritual leader. After he read the law out loud to all the people one day, there was a radical reformation among the people.

That was because he studied, he focused himself to not only be able to recite the words, but to put them into practice in his own life. The result was, when he taught it to Israel, he was a virtuous and credible teacher. Their hearts were open to reform, in part, because of Ezra’s example. The Israelites were touched by the Creator himself. Ezra became a reasonable reflection of the creator’s character through the study and implementation of the word.

Join me in asking ourselves these questions: Where is my focus? Am I a hearer of the word only and not a doer? What one thing can I change to help me to focus better where God wants me to?

Independence And Dependence

DSC_00951.jpgDSC_0148As we meet the eve of the Fourth of July my mind goes to questions surrounding independence and dependence.

We celebrate Independence Day, and in many ways ours is the celebration of rebellion! Yes, it was a rebellion against tyranny! That is a very important distinction. [See The Declaration of Independence] The American Revolution was about becoming a free agent. Seeking liberty to act justly, VS “Do what ‘I’ want.”

Think a moment about how people learn to become independent. Isn’t that what adolescence all about? If we do our parenting well, we are constantly, consistently teaching and training them to become independent from us. BUT, when the adolescents start to really grasp that concept, we parents are very often in for a roller coaster of a ride!

Some children flow into adulthood with little turbulence. But from my experience and observations, very few children have an easy adjustment to maturity. Most of the time, the rebellion phase eventually passes, their frontal lobes finally form and adolescents become responsible adults. Most of the time.

The US independence eventually matured the fledgling country into the most powerful nation on earth. It is not unbridled power. There are constraints, as there are for our individual liberties.

The USA is founded on biblical principles with checks and balances, precisely because human nature leans toward corruption. The three branches of government are independent of one another, yet dependent on one another. The more I think about it I am “wowed” by the brilliance of it. Yet, without a moral foundation it doesn’t work for long.

So how might this idea of independence and dependence be personally meaningful to our relationships with others and with our Creator? What does healthy independence look like? Well, I propose that healthy independence looks a lot like healthy dependence… on other people and on God.

We are created to be social beings. We are each unique. We are created male I female. The way we are made, these differences are necessary. We can’t make more people with out at least a man and a woman. Then the smallest units of people are families. We grow, nurture and mature in families.

And we are created in the image of God, who is in fact, three…in one! I don’t really understand it fully, but I know we are created to need one another.

In the “Godhead,” they depend on each other and we in the family unit depend on each other. And we depend on God for life. The Creator is also the sustainer of life.

Dependence

I believe, becoming Independently dependent is the goal.

I am an individual and as an adult I am responsible for my personal actions, and to care for my children when they are young. I am created in the image of God. I am a child of God. As I mature, ideally I am growing in characteristics that mirror the goodness of God. I am independent, but dependent within my family.

I participate in society. I am responsible to perform my civic duties like paying taxes and voting. And I am dependent on the Government to provide for general security by maintaining national defenses, societal order and justice. I am independent, yet dependent.

I also am responsible to love my neighbor as myself. That may have many ways it works out. If someone is desperate, the help is more direct. If they can help themselves, then I do what I can to connect them to ways to help them help themselves, such as finding work or gaining training. We are independently dependent on one another.

Likewise with God, I am dependent on the Creator for every breath I take. From experience I know that the Bible helps give me direction so I can mature into the person I am created to be. My personal walk with God contributes to my maturity and independence. I gain my strength and wisdom from the Creator. I am independently dependent on God.

Take a bit of time to contemplate all the interconnectedness of life. I have only scratched the surface!

On this Celebration of our nations independence, thank God for our nation! Thank God for our freedoms. Thank God for our dependence too. Without God, and each other, we are nothing.